Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Good Grooming Habits

There are easy posts and more elaborate posts. This is an easy post because I just spent a bunch of time assembling all the photos for a more elaborate post but I've run out of energy to actually write it. So you get a simple sight gag instead.

The Sergeant was getting a little shaggy, so out came the clippers. My dad bought them sometime in the late '60s or early '70s and used them to trim the poodles we had back then. I inherited them and used them to trim Sophie. Now I take Jackson and Lucy to a professional groomer (totally worth it). But the clippers still keep the Sergeant in trim.

They're Oster Golden A5s. I sent them to the factory to be reconditioned a few years ago and I'm pretty sure every part was replaced but the housing.

We're celebrating the Sergeant's birthday today. He is also somewhat vintage, but still buzzing right along like a set of Golden A5s.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Serging to the Rescue

I got this Cloudborn Fibers bag as a promotional freebie. (Bet your didn't know that I made a whole sweater out of Cloudborn yarn a year ago ... because I wasn't blogging then. But there it is at right: Laura Nelkin's Novus pattern, in Cloudborn bulky merino. It's an interesting construction that I enjoyed knitting.)

Anyhoo, this bag is a perfectly nice knitting project bag, except for one thing: It's made out of burlap, which is fine if you treat it correctly. But if you don't bother finishing the seams, they will fray into oblivion very quickly. The side seam on this bag had already popped open, and the drawstring channel was about to do the same.

I bought a pretty bag from Fringe Supply Co. that did exactly the same thing. It fell apart so completely that I had to throw it out. I didn't know how to fix it.

This time, though, I have a means of stopping the fraying in its tracks: my new (to me) serger. I'm still learning its ins and outs, and it's still pretty intimidating, but what better way to practice than on something you would otherwise toss?

If you're not familiar with sergers (a.k.a. overlockers), they trim the edge of the fabric and use three or four threads to encase the edge of a seam. You see such a finish in ready-to-wear all the time. I got this serger from my mother-in-law for my birthday; it's one of her older ones that is a great little workhorse. She gave me some instruction on it when she was here over Christmas. Here's a slo-mo video of it in action:

You can easily see the blade cutting, and the two needles coming down and up. The loopers are a little harder to spot, poking out to loop the thread around the edge of the fabric. I ran the serger down both sides of the bag, then zigzag-stitched the bottom of the drawstring channel on my regular sewing machine to stabilize the fraying threads there.

The bag now has much tidier seams that won't fray, and the drawstring channel will stay intact.

(Those are the tweezer-style thread snips I bought at the Stock Show last week, by the way. They are so sharp! And super-easy and comfortable to use. I love them.)

Ordinarily the serger threads would be all the same color (light or dark), but my MIL was showing me how to change threads, so we have a mixture here. I successfully switched them all to dark threads as you can see in the video above. Yay! It's kind of a nerve-wracking process.

And now I like this bag again. It won't fall apart on me anytime soon.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Dinner at Yardbird, Denver

If restaurant Monopoly were a real game (and why not? There's Dog-Opoly and other variants), Old South Pearl Street could be the model for it. Eateries come and go, buildings change hands, speculation abounds. I enjoy following all the action with a certain selfish interest; today's real estate swap might become tomorrow's go-to dinner spot.

So it was with particular happiness that I learned about Yardbird, the next incarnation of Gaia Bistro, newly opened in the former Black Pearl space.

The charming Victorian cottage that Gaia occupied (previously it had also been a coffee shop, a yarn shop and an ice cream place) is being torn down to make way for an office building (ugh). Black Pearl, meanwhile, closed last summer, and good riddance. They ruined my birthday many years ago, and failed to redeem themselves when we tried them again more recently.

So. Yardbird had a little bit of bad juju to work off.

We had a 7:30 reservation and were seated promptly, on the balcony level. Our server, Marie, was still learning the drinks menu, but cheerfully got back to us on the questions we had about ingredients ("What are Carpano Antica and Averna Amaro?" Answer: Vermouth and sweet bitters).

The Sergeant had The Conductor, a rye cocktail with amaro, lemon and ginger, while I ordered the bourbon-based Drifter, with vermouth, cherry juice and cherry bitters The Sergeant found his drink a little too sweet for his liking, so he switched to the Drifter on the next round.

The menu includes "breakfast all day," with some Gaia classics such as crepes, the stuffed poblano and baked eggs, plus a dinner menu of diner-style classics and comfort foods: meatloaf, shepherd's pie, mac 'n' cheese, shrimp 'n' grits.

For an appetizer we opted for "roasted beets & avocados — local goat cheese salad." That was how it was printed on the menu, with selective bolding, so I was expecting chunks of beets and avocados next to a little salad, maybe. What we got was a fairly substantial salad of mixed greens with cubes of beets, avocados and goat cheese mixed in. Which would have been fine, but it was positively drenched in an overly sweet dressing that made it impossible to taste the featured ingredients' subtle flavors. I would order it again, I think, if I could get a different dressing served on the side.

For our main courses, the Sergeant ordered the vegetable curry and I got the meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes.
Thumbs up for both! The flavors were good and the portions were just right. Not stingy, not ludicrously huge. Huge can be good if you're looking to make the next day's lunch from your leftovers, but that wasn't my goal here. I was happy to clean my plate.

I could've skipped dessert, but I wanted to see how their banana cream pie was. Yeah, it was yummy.

As I mentioned before, we were seated on the balcony, which is a little more intimate and can offer an interesting perspective on the diners below.

There's an outdoor area complete with fire pit that will be nice in the summer. (And with a prettier view, I hope, than the tarp-covered windows of the Sushi/Izakaya/Ototo Dens' parking garage. A little bird named Toshi told me once upon a time that a Japanese bakery would be going in there.)

And there's a substantial bar area with a somewhat funky layout. We didn't really get to check it out since we were seated so quickly.

But guess what? We're going back tomorrow for dinner, so we'll make a point of getting there a little early to check out the bar. We want to try some different menu items, too.

Bad juju worked off? It certainly seems that way! Stay tuned.

1529 S. Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210
(303) 777-0500
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Visit to the Stock Show

I love the National Western Stock Show and try to get there at least once during its 16-day run. I usually go the final weekend to see the stock dog trials, and this year was no different. I lucked out, too, because a neighbor gave me a pair of general admission tickets.
It's hard to get good photos in the Stadium Arena because the light is a little dim, and the dogs and sheep are moving pretty fast most of the time.

Look at 'em go!

(I was using the Hyperlapse app on my iPhone for this.)

Then we wandered into the barns to see some of the few animals remaining on the last day, including this lovely bovine, No. 4:

And her friend, Dolly, who wanted to slip us some tongue:

We met some nice mules ...

... who won lots of ribbons and had very tidy owners

Then we headed upstairs to the "Hall of Education," which is a giant marketplace of all things ranching, plus anything else that might interest the typical National Western visitor.

(This little notice in the stairway struck me as very good advice. Not only for general hygiene but because of bird flu and swine flu concerns.)

I didn't really have a need for saddles, cattle confinement systems or parasite control, so I headed directly to my favorite vendor:

Lakeside Scissor Sales is based in Sacramento, California, and they've had a booth at the Stock Show for 30 years. They sell not just every kind of scissors, but also all kinds of pliers, tweezers, manicure tools, dental picks, magnifying glasses, keychains and accessories, jewelry making tools, eyeglass repair kits, you name it.

I have purchased all kinds of useful items there over the years, my favorites being really good tweezers, including a foot-long set; miniature clamps that I use in the kitchen mostly as bag clips; a stiletto; and a pointy manicure tool. This time I got thread snips and more mini clamps.

Finally, we headed to the Western art gallery, where a friend of mine had some paintings being shown. Only we discovered that her paintings were actually on display in the private National Western Club. No worries! A volunteer took us down there and led us around to see the art in the dining room and bar.

I just love Mai Wyn's oil paintings on aluminum and stainless steel. And her Colorado work is so interesting and different from her Wisconsin pieces (of which I have a couple). I'll have to do a post about those sometime.

So it was a nice, somewhat quick visit to the Stock Show. Next year I'll try to go earlier in the show's run as well. Time just got away from me this year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pizza Pizza

Well, it's kind of fun to play around with a gif maker to show pizza assembly.

I make pizza for dinner every couple of weeks, using dough that I mix up in big batches and freeze, along with roasted tomato sauce, also frozen, from our garden tomatoes. As long as I remember to transfer dough and sauce to the fridge the night before, it's quite convenient.

Putting the thawed tomato sauce in a fine-mesh colander allows some of the excess water to drain off, leaving a thick pizza sauce.

Our go-to toppings are mushrooms, black olives, prosciutto or pepperoni, sliced garlic and multiple cheeses — mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, or whatever we happen to have.

I usually make two pizzas so we both have slices available for lunch the next day. It's really good pizza, and better than what you can order most places.

P.S. I set the gif to do five repeats, then stop. So if it's annoying you, just wait a bit. If you want to see it loop again, refresh the page.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lindsey's Baked Tofu With Baby Bok Choy

My co-worker Lindsey gave me this tofu recipe, and I make it every couple of weeks because it is easy and tasty. It is easy in part because there is a Japanese market close to where I work, where I can pick up gorgeous baby bok choy. I'll confess, I also like their little containers of pre-peeled garlic. It's cheap and convenient.

Tofu, happily, is available everywhere now. I got some today at Safeway.

For the tofu, you need:
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, sliced through horizontally, then into halves or quarters (4-8 pieces total)
  • 1/3 cup chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped/toasted nuts (I've used toasted pine nuts, pecans and walnuts on different occasions, because that's what I had handy)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped if using a food processor, otherwise minced.
  1. Heat oven to 450 F
  2. Press the sliced tofu to remove excess moisture. Put it between paper towels and put a cutting board on top of it with something heavy to weigh it down (I use my flour and sugar canisters).
  3. Line a cookie sheet or quarter-sheet pan with parchment. Place tofu slices on it.
  4. Mix basil and mayo together, spread on top of tofu squares, and on the sides a bit.
  5. Mix together panko, parmesan, nuts, garlic. I have Krups mini food processor/chopper that I just throw all those ingredients into to chop and mix them.
  6. Sprinkle the mixture on top of tofu, pressing lightly to adhere.
  7. Bake until browned, about 20 minutes.
For the bok choy, you need:
  • 4-6 heads of baby bok choy, cleaned and cut in half
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Minced ginger, about a 1-inch piece
  • (optional) Minced shallot or onion
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I prefer low sodium)
  • Splash of water
  • Toasted sesame oil
  1. Heat some oil in a skillet that you have a lid for.
  2. Sautée the garlic, ginger and optional shallot until fragrant.
  3. Add the bok choy, cut side down, and scootch it around a little to get it oiled. Let it cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the soy sauce and water over the bok choy and cover the pan. Let it cook a few minutes to soften.
  5. Remove the lid, flip the bok choy over and continue cooking until the liquid in the pan has mostly evaporated.
  6. Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Gathering of a Few Like-Minded Friends

I didn't really know what to expect on Saturday, but I wanted to add my body in support of the cause. My friends and their 5-year-old son invited me to walk with them. They live just a few blocks away, so we decided to take the bus downtown together.

Officials at the city transit authority, RTD, had said they would add more buses along key routes. If by "more" they meant "one," then I guess they didn't lie. Two full buses passed us, and the driver of the second wasn't encouraging about any more coming along. We gave up and drove downtown instead. We found a spot in a parking lot without much difficulty.

Wow, there sure were a lot of people there! I don't know what the original estimates were, other than "thousands." As it turns out, this is what 100,000 (or maybe even 200,000) looks like:

(I stood on a bench to take that.)

Lots of pussyhats! This gal had a bag full of them that she was handing out. (My mother-in-law, by the way, made 26! She made hers out of fleece.)
The march had been going on for more than an hour before our part of the crowd even began moving in the direction of the march route. That's how many people there were. It took that long to funnel down into one street.

The signs were fun to see. There were so many great ones, and I could have spent a lot of time just trying to get good photos of them. But I didn't. I'm sure you've seen all of the best ones on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, anyway.
My friends' son was a very good sport about all the waiting we had to do, and then the shuffling and finally walking. Of course, he was able to do a lot of it on Dad's shoulders.

I wonder if he will remember the march when he's grown up. I hope he does!

One of the really impressive things about the march was how friendly and calm the whole thing was. There were lots of families with kids, disabled and older folk whom everyone was helping along, and no counter-protesters (that I could see, though later I did see some news photos of a few.)

The men's participation was heartening. Especially this call and response when we passed under the Denver Pavilions Skywalk:

It took us about an hour to walk the whole route, and there were still people just starting at the other end. The youngster was nearing the end of his ability to cope, and we were all a bit tired ourselves, so we headed back home. It was gratifying to read later about the stupendous turnout at similar marches around the world.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Too large, cobbled together from spare yarn, and badly seamed. But full of heart.

On my way to work today I got honks, thumbs up, a "Thanks for wearing your hat!" and "See you tomorrow!" The latter referring to Saturday's women's march.

I'll be heading downtown with some friends and their young son tomorrow. Colorado might be a purple state, but Denver is decidedly blue. In more ways than one, today.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Less Fat Cat

Enver used to weigh 23 pounds. Now he's down to about 18, thanks to a strict diet. His sister gets her food separately, in the top of the cat tower, which Enver is afraid to climb.

In the wee hours this morning he woke me up with his weird obsessive sheet-licking. Rasp, rasp, rasp.

I shoved a pillow at him and he promptly leapt off the bed and began sharpening his claws on the scratching pad. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Then he walked around and mewed piteously. Mrr-owwww. Mrrrowwww!  Nosed around his food dish. Clink, clank, clunk.

Then he got into the litter box in the closet and started re-arranging the litter. Scritch, scratch, scritch.

Enver could very well be a children's picture book character in his next life.

Or a muff.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mapo Tofu With Pork

Is it weird to eat tofu and meat in the same dish? A lot of people (Americans) seem to think so. Because only vegetarians eat tofu, right? Why would you eat tofu if you can eat meat?

OK, maybe tofu is an acquired taste. It's a bit bland in its natural state, but it has a variety of lovely textures, from silky soft to firm and chewy, and it picks up flavor from sauces like nobody's business.

And there's no reason you can't mix it with meat. It's just another form of protein to add dimension to a dish. Certainly the Chinese know that, and they invented this yummy dish, Mapo Tofu With Pork, that is a easy weeknight dinner. It serves four, generously.


  • 1 lb. ground pork (you can use less, of course)
  • 1-2 chile peppers such as jalapeño or Thai chile, thinly sliced (2 Thais gives it a nice heat for me but not enough for the Sergeant. He doctors his with pepper flakes.)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 knob of ginger, minced
  • 8-12 scallions/green onions/spring onions, cut mostly into roughly half-inch sections. Thinly slice the topmost part of the greens and set aside separately.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (you can get it in a tube now, which is convenient)
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground in a mortar. Or black pepper if that's what you have (but invest in Sichuan peppercorns if you can; their flavor is unique.)
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black bean garlic sauce
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound soft tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces (Do this ahead of time and leave the tofu to dry a little on paper towels, if you can. But it's not critical.)
  • Fresh or lightly dried basil
  • (Optional: 1 package pre-sliced mushrooms that your husband accidentally bought to put on pizza when you'd already bought a package the day before. Heat some oil and sautée them until they are almost caramelized, then set aside. More umami for your dish!)


  1. Start a pot of rice or fire up your rice cooker. I cook 2 cups of rice for the Sergeant and me. That's enough for dinner, plus a generous serving to package up with leftovers for my lunch the next day. The Sergeant makes fresh rice for his lunch.
  2. Heat oil in a big skillet and cook the ground pork for 8-10 minutes until well browned.
  3. Add the chile(s), garlic, ginger, and chopped scallions and cook for 3 minutes (you should be able really smell the garlic and ginger). 
  4. Add tomato paste and Sichuan peppercorns and cook for a minute. 
  5. Then add the chicken broth and  black bean garlic sauce and bring to a simmer. (Add those accidental mushrooms now, too, if using.)
  6. Mix cornstarch with a splash of water in a small bowl and add it to the sauce and stir to incorporate it thoroughly.
  7. Add tofu and gently fold it the sauce over it, then cover the pan and let it simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and fold in the green sliced scallion tops.
  9. Serve the tofu over rice sprinkled with torn-up fresh basil leaves or a sprinkling of dried basil.

This recipe is originally from Bon Appétit. I've modified it for my tastes and cooking style.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

This Is Not a Perfume

Nothing is worse than choking on another person's perfume, so I apply it lightly. A dab on the wrists and throat, Or a single spritz in the air, which I then walk through.

My go-to's have been Chanel No. 19, L'Air du Temps, Hermès Caleche, Eau de Givenchy and Joy, but I haven't worn any of them with regularity for a while. I kind of forget about using them. And they're a little dated.

So it was fun to find this wee sample in a recent Birchbox and to discover that I really like it. Not a Perfume is, in fact, a perfume, but with a single ingredient: synthetic ambergris. It smells fresh but musky to me, and it lingers nicely. I use just a drop of it at a time, so even this little vial has lasted a while.

I thought about getting a bottle of it, but a couple of things put me off. First, it's about $75 for a bottle that would take me years to get through. Second, many reviewers complained that the perfume from the bottle smelled nothing like the smaller sample.

So I poked around online and found this great little "discovery kit" for $20 that includes a larger, 4 ml vial of "Not a Perfume" as well as seven 1.7 ml vials  of other Juliette Has a Gun scents.

I'm enjoying rotating though them and seeing which ones I like best. So far, I find I keep returning to Not a Perfume.

If you really want to try it, you can find individual sampler vials on eBay. Sephora shops might also have a tester available.

As is often the case, my research for this post led me to an interesting website: Fragrantica, "an online encyclopedia of perfumes, a perfume magazine and a community of perfume lovers."

A community of perfume lovers! It's like Ravelry for your schnozz. Which is pretty awesome. .I enjoyed reading the reviews of my favorite scents.

Interestingly, for some people "Not a Perfume" smells like nothing at all.